Future Tech: Plus…an amazing polymer that could heal the human body & a virtual reality eyepiece that helps surgeons operate.
This week’s Future Tech article takes a look at some recent and exciting new medical technologies, starting off with a British student’s invention that will improve the delivery of vaccines – and his decision to forgo a patent in order to make it accessible to millions.
Young inventor with device to transport life-saving vaccines
A 22-year-old British student has invented a mobile fridge that could save millions of lives across the world. Will Broadway’s “Isobar” has been designed to keep vaccines at the ideal temperature while in transit in developing countries. And Will doesn’t plan to make money from his creation.
His focus is to get it to people who need it, which is why he won’t be trying to get a patent. “I make things every day for people who have everything,” Will, an industrial design and technology graduate from Loughborough University, tells Newsbeat. “I wanted to make something for people who have next to nothing. It should be a basic human right, in my opinion, to have a vaccination. I don’t think that it should be patented to restrict use.”
Will’s Isobar has won him the annual James Dyson Award, open to students across the world with a simple brief – design something that solves a problem.
This new “electroactive substance” can kickstart the body’s healing process
What generates voltage when you warm it up, push on it, or blow on it? … The correct answer is polyvinylidene fluoride, a material NASA researchers have refined for use in morphing aircraft that shapeshift in response to their environment. But wait! There’s more: It can also kickstart the human body’s healing process.
Because of its potential to heal the world and make it a better place, the polymer’s inventors, Mia Siochi and Lisa Scott Carnell, have now turned it over to the public through NASA’s Technology Transfer Program. Through that process, companies license NASA technology for cheap and turn it into products to sell to non-astronauts. But transforming space stuff into Earth stuff isn’t always smooth. Turned-over technology can get lost inside the catalog, stall out in the bowels of a company, or become part of a product the original inventors wouldn’t approve of.
Polyvinylidene fluoride certainly has the potential to do what its inventors hope it will: heal humans. It’s a so-called electroactive substance that gins up an electric field when stimulated. The researchers developed a process to align and weave its fibers—which in previous productions were strewn randomly—into a kind of high-tech gauze.
Would you let a surgeon wear this while operating on you?
For the medical community, virtual and augmented reality offer the tantalizing opportunity to visualize hidden or blocked areas of the body. This year has seen some fascinating applications, from mapping a patient’s brain mid-operation to livestreaming the actual surgery. Today, Mt. Sinai announced the first procedural use of the CaptiView AR system, a heads-up-display that overlays critical data and 3D models over the eyepieces in a surgical microscope.
The system “provides neurovascular and fiber-track information in 2D or 3D as well as on-screen video overlays visible” through the eyepiece, according to a press release.
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